Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

Buddhists vs Muslims? Misreading Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis

November 16, 2017

AFP

© Phyo Hein Kyaw, AFP | Rohingya women hold children at a makeshift camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar before crossing over into Bangladesh.

Text by Alex BART , In Myanmar

Latest update : 2017-11-16

Alex Bart is a FRANCE 24 journalist doing volunteer work in Myanmar, where a military crackdown has driven out some 600,000 Rohingya civilians. He says to make the crisis a clash between Muslims and Buddhists is to ignore its complex roots.

Two months ago, at the height of the most recent Rohingya crisis, six men showed up for dinner at the guest house where I’m staying, not far from Myanmar‘s restive Rakhine State. The owner, who set up the guest house to help fund a neighbouring school for needy children, was away, and the head waitress signalled to me that she didn’t like the men. She asked me to stay around until they left.

The guest house is high on a hill, fairly isolated, and there was no one else around. The head waitress has little English, and all she said when I asked why she didn’t trust the men was, ‘Rakhine’. The men were not the friendliest I’ve met, but nothing happened. It was only later that I understood she was concerned about the safety of a young Muslim woman who works with us.

Two days later, in a town an hour away, Buddhist nationalists attacked the property of a prominent Muslim family – collapsing the complicated history of the Rohingya, Rakhine and Myanmar into essentially the same narrative that much of the international media has adopted: Buddhists vs Muslims.

Disputed identities

Based on what I have been witnessing on the ground, the situation is much more complex. To try and explain it does not mean excusing the atrocities the army has undoubtedly committed, or ignoring the plight of the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children trapped between Rohingya militants and the army.

The very term ‘Rohingya’, readily used by almost everyone outside the country, is explosive here. Many in Myanmar feel it confers legitimacy on the Rohingya’s claim that they’re indigenous to the region, though their origins are far from clear. (The term comes from Rohang, an Arab word used centuries ago by Muslims in the area to refer to themselves). The people of Myanmar claim it’s an invented identity for what are largely East Indian immigrants who arrived under British rule and more recently in the 1970s, when a gruesome civil war in what is today Bangladesh sent many Bengalis fleeing into Myanmar. Myanmar’s government regards them as illegal immigrants and denies them citizenship. But what is indisputable is that they have been here for generations.

Even Kaman Muslims, one of the officially recognised ethnic groups under Myanmar’s infamous Citizenship Law, are wary of the Rohingya claims. Rakhine has a total population of just over three million and is the poorest state in a poor nation. NGOs and UN officials have urged Myanmar’s government to grant its Rohingya population full citizenship. But critics say giving 1.3 million Rohingya (or nearly two million if one includes those who fled in earlier clashes) full citizenship rights could exacerbate tensions and amount to imposing Western-style multiculturalism on the country.

Western partiality

Muslims do live peacefully side by side with Buddhists elsewhere in Myanmar, which is not to deny the anti-Muslim sentiment long fostered by a military government that has wedded conservative Buddhism with ultra-nationalism. Personally, I’ve never witnessed this tension. But I read about it in the news. Rakhine is located just beyond the mountains where I live. We could hear military jets flying over in the worst of times.

There, Buddhist natives also feel put upon by the ruling Burmans, the country’s dominant, Burmese-speaking ethnic group. And they are outraged by what they see as the West, including NGOs, being grossly one-sided. A failed movement by the ancestors of today’s Rohingya to form a separate state in northern Rakhine in the mid-twentieth century has also bred the suspicion that the Rohingya are not to be trusted.

VIDEO: THE ROHINGYA CHILDREN SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS

Turning on The Lady

One of the most egregious aspects of the media focus on the current Rohyingya crisis has been the attacks on Aung Sun Suu Kyi. I knew little about her before I came. I’ve since read several books by and about her. One of these is a book of interviews. In none is there even a whiff of racism. The worst that comes across is a vague intolerance for people who aren’t tolerant enough. She shows remarkable humility for her political achievements (leading a country towards democracy without violence) and a surprising understanding for the men who jailed her along with members of her National League for Democracy Party.

The thinly veiled accusations of racism levelled at Suu Kyi seem mostly based on international media’s understandable outrage at the plight of the Rohingya. Given her track record in fighting oppression, the media say, why isn’t Suu Kyi doing anything for the Rohingya? Why did The Lady, as she is known at home, wait so long before speaking out on the crisis? That remains a mystery, but it is unlikely it stems from hatred or, as some have suggested, collusion with her erstwhile jailors in the military.

Before the current crisis, Suu Kyi had established the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. Its report was released just two days before an attack by the Rohingya militant group ARSA and the army’s outsized response sent Rakhine spiralling into sectarian violence once again. Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo, one of the country’s most outspoken defenders of the Rohingya, told the CNA that while he regrets Aung San Suu Kyi had not spoken up earlier, “to stigmatize her as if she did nothing [for the Rohingya] is a far-fetched theory”.

Walking a tightrope

It’s more likely there’s little she can do. The military, which questioned the Annan-led commission’s impartiality, still controls 25 percent of Myanmar’s parliament and the key ministries. Suu Kyi has zero control over their decisions, and they’re essentially a state within the state. The pillorying she is receiving on the world stage is probably most welcome to them. Myanmar’s democracy is precarious, and Suu Kyi is walking a tightrope. Vocal support for the Rohingya could alienate the Rakhine Buddhists she has to work with if there is to be any hope of sustainable peace, and a solution to the Rohingya’s statelessness.

She has quietly begun that process. In a surprise visit to Rahkine State in the beginning of November, she stressed once again the need for long-term solutions with the help of local communities. As of the first week of November, a local youth volunteer programme has started bringing teams of volunteers from across Myanmar into Rakhine to help with humanitarian and development work. And she has begun to implement the delicate process of verifying Rohingya claims to citizenship, following recommendations proposed by the Annan-led Commission, as a first step towards permanent citizenship and clarifying rights.

The process has already been marred by violence, for the national verification cards don’t mention ethnicity (i.e.,“Rohingya”) and the Rohingya have a deep and justifiable distrust of the government’s end-game. It shows, again, how intractable the problem is.

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Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

October 31, 2017

FARS News (Iran)

Maung Zarni: Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

TEHRAN (FNA)- Activist and scholar Maung Zarni says that the plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse under the administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and now there are about 100,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homeland every week.

The Burmese scholar in an exclusive interview with FNA said that Aung San SuuKyi’s leadership has been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists which was intended to give acceptability to what, he believes, is a “military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism”.

According to the rights activist, Rohingyas in Myanmar live under restrictive measures of movement, marriage and child control in either open prisons or internally displaced persons camps (IDP camps). He also added that the Muslim minority’s access to food supplies and medical care is awfully limited.

Maung Zarni is a democracy advocate, Rohingya campaigner, and an adviser to European Centre for the Study of Extremism. He is also a research fellow at Genocide Documentation Centre and has been frequently interviewed by international media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV and TRT World.

FNA has conducted an interview with Maung Zarni about the terrible living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims and the reasons behind the inaction by the so-called international community to stop what the United Nations calls “textbook ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya.

Below you will find the full text of the interview.

Q: Rohingya Muslims are not included in Myanmar’s list of 135 official minorities meaning they are deprived of the right to citizenship. Why do you think the Rohingyas have been left stateless by their own government in the first place?

Firstly, 135 official minorities are nothing but a fiction used by the Burmese military to justify their institutional narrative that Myanmar faces constant threat of Balkanization, if the military return to the barracks. So, I don’t and won’t repeat the regime’s self-serving propaganda. The military has since early 1960’s shifted its policy of the official embrace of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of the Union of Burma to a radical strategic perspective according to which a sizeable pocket of Muslims in a single geographic pocket next to a populous Muslim region of the then Pakistan was a threat to Burma’s national security. Every wave of expulsion, violence, death and destruction of Rohingyas over the last 40 years has been triggered by this dangerous strategic paradigm.

Q: Aung San SuuKyi’s coming to power as the Nobel Peace laureate and first democratic government brought about major hopes to the Burmese including the Rohingya. In your opinion, has anything changed for the Muslim minority since she took office?

Suu Kyi’s leadership, and Suu Kyi the person, have been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists. Her ascendency to de facto leadership has only lent the veneer of acceptability to what really is a military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism. The plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse, with 100,000 fleeing every week.   Mirroring the military’s Muslim-free armed forces, she presides over her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), and the NLD-controlled Parliament, with not a single Muslim representation.

Q: There are reports about mosques across Burma being damaged or completely destroyed and authorities have been refusing to allow Muslims to repair their mosques. Why is the government refusing to allow the Muslim minority to access their place of worship which is considered to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression and religion?

Mosques – like any places of worship in any religion – serve as the anchor of Muslim communities throughout Burma. The severe restrictions on the repair, renovation, or expansion of mosques are motivated by the intent to prevent the growth of the community in spirit and strength. It is a part of the Buddhist ethnocratic state’s attempt to monitor, control and subjugate Muslim communities – although Islam in Burma has long been a peaceful religion for centuries since it arrived centuries ago.

Q: Could you please let us know about the conditions of displaced Rohingyas living both in and outside Myanmar’s borders?

Even seasoned humanitarian workers would tell you how shocked they are at the first sight of the conditions under which Rohingyas living in India and Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar, Rohingyas live in two different types of situation: open vast prisons and the internally displaced persons camps.   They have no freedom of movement; all aspects of their lives are totally controlled by the Burmese military authorities at the top of the administrative structures and local Buddhist Rakhine who occupy the majority of the admin posts. Rohingyas’ access to food and food systems (such as streams and rivers, paddy fields, etc.) as well as opportunities to earn a living has been controlled and restricted. Doctor-patience ratio for the two major towns – Buthidaung and Maungdaw – are estimated to be 1: 150,000 – while the national average is 1: 1,000 – 2,000. Extreme malnutrition is prevalent with sub-Sahara-like conditions. Only Rohingyas are singled out for strict marriage control and child control. Rape and gang-rape of Rohingya women and even girls are rampant.  Mass arrests of Rohingya males are routine. Summary execution, forced labour, extortions, etc. are routinely practised by the security troops that split Rohingya region into two dozen security grids.  It is this kind of inhuman conditions under which Rohingyas are forced to exist – not live as humans – that has been a major push factor behind regular, if less dramatic and less reported than the most recent one, waves of fleeing Rohingyas. Emphatically, I must state that these conditions are maintained as a matter of policy by the central governments since the late 1970’s: to destroy life as we know it, for the entire Rohingya community as a distinct ethnic group, whether recognized by the State officially, as such or not. Precisely because of the policy of destroying Rohingya community as a group I have been calling this a genocide – a textbook genocidal act as defined by the Genocide Convention.

Q: The state counsellor faces mounting criticism over what the United Nations calls “textbook ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya. This systematic persecution has been ongoing for years. Why do you think we do not see any strong reaction by international human rights organizations, namely the United Nations to stop all the injustice and atrocities?

To the UN and all the world powers, typically all genocides are inconveniences. The refusal to recognize the nature of the heinous crimes by its proper legal name, that is, genocide speaks volumes about the absence of collective will to end this international crime. I find it utterly disgusting that UN and even human rights agencies opting to call it by Milosevic’s original euphemism. The genocidal Serb was a clever bastard who knew ‘ethnic cleansing’ was not a crime under international law. If a crime is recognized as genocide that the UN system would be obliged to intervene to end it. Truth is international law is nothing without the political will to enforce it.    Ending genocide has never been deemed strategically or commercially profitable. Hence, empty talks and outcome less meetings.

Q: On several occasions we have seen the western countries, namely the US and the UK, acting without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. We have seen them imposing sanctions and even taking military action against countries solely based on their own political and geopolitical interests. But when it comes to Myanmar, they do not seem to be much concerned about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing as we do not see any strong reaction. What do you think is the reason behind the double standard?

UK and USA are known to bypass the Security Council, in pursuing their strategic interests, however defined. They have launched invasions in countries throughout the world, from Korea and Vietnam to Africa and the Middle East. But ending genocides is not viewed as part of their strategic interest. Additionally, they delude themselves into thinking that some semblance of democracy and human rights regime can still be salvaged with its Burmese proxy Aung San Suu Kyi, although she has lost the support and admiration of the world. The truth is UN and international law, as well as the institutions of global governance do not work for the oppressed majority of peoples around the world. Rohingyas are not an exception.

Q: Aung SanSuu Kyi did not attend this year’s UN General Assembly session. She did so without providing any reason for the withdrawal. As we discussed, the United Nations so far has failed to act properly to stop the violence. Why do you think then she decided to cancel her trip to the UN?

It’s a clear sign that she now views the world as a hostile place for her to go. The world no longer sees her as “the hopes of Burma”, let alone “the voice of the voiceless”. She has become world-infamous for hiding her head in the sand when it comes to issues of crucial import to the country. Forget going to the UN where she expected strong criticism of her leadership failures. She has no moral or intellectual integrity to confront inconvenient realities of her country, particularly the issue of Rohingya genocide that concerns the world.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960725001695

Iranian diplomat: “The countdown to the annihilation of the Zionist regime (Israel) has begun.”

October 31, 2017
BY LAUREN S. MARCUS
 OCTOBER 30, 2017 10:52

“The countdown to the annihilation of the Zionist regime has begun.”

Demonstration

Demonstrators burn an Israeli national flag during an anti-Israel protest. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boldly declared that Tehran will continue to produce nuclear-capable missiles, an activity Israel has been warning against for years, a video of an Iranian diplomat urging for the destruction of Israel started gaining traction online.

The diplomat and imam Hormoz Gharemani made a hate speech against the Jewish state at an Al-Quds Day event in June 2017 at an Auckland, New Zealand mosque, but his words only started coming under public scrutiny this week.

https://www.memri.org/player/clip/37740/1/1

In the video, which was translated by MEMRI, Ghahremani can be heard saying: “The Zionists make divisions in the Muslim world to achieve their goals.”

He also described a “Zionist conspiracy to infiltrate Muslim countries” and attributed to Israel “terrorism and extremism in the region [as] fueled and funded by the enemies of Islam and the Zionists.”

Next to speak at the event that was hosted by the lslamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand was Imam Hojatoleslam Shafie, who stated:  “As you all know, Israel and the Zionist regime hide behind a fake phenomenon…described as the Holocaust, and do not let anybody investigate the Holocaust….Why weren’t the Jews given a piece of Germany? Why should [did] they come to Palestine?”

The imam said that Al-Quds Day (Al-Quds being the Arabic word for Jerusalem) was founded by the late Iranian Supreme Ayatollah Khomeini with the intention of “dealing a powerful punch to the mouth of the cancerous tumor known as evil Israel.”

Over the sounds of children playing, Shafie continued, “As Imam Khomeini once said, if every Muslim were to spit in the face of Israel, Israel would drown.”

He returned to familiar language, describing Israel as a “cancer” which needs to be “surgically removed.”

Without citing an explanation, Shafie said, “In my opinion, the countdown to the annihilation of the Zionist regime has begun.”

As the video continues to spark controversy online, the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand (from which both imams operate) are slated to lead the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba tomorrow, and delegations from down under are currently touring Israel before the event.

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Includes video:
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Thousands march in Berlin against far-right AfD

October 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A protestor holds up a sign reading “Stop the AFD” during a demonstration in Berlin as representatives of the far-right Alternative for Germany party prepare to take their seats in German parliament next week.

BERLIN (AFP) – Thousands of demonstrators marched Sunday in Berlin, in protest against the far-right Alternative for Germany’s debut in parliament next week.

Bearing posters with slogans like “Stop AfD”, “My voice against incitement” or “My heart beats for diversity”, the demonstrators rallied two days before AfD lawmakers will join other MPs at the first sitting of Germany’s newly-elected parliament.

The Islamophobic and anti-migrant AfD garnered 12.6 percent of the vote in the watershed general election in September and became the country’s third biggest party.

Its arrival in the Bundestag is a political earthquake for post-war Germany, as the AfD’s top figures have repeatedly smashed taboos with their claims on German identity or by challenging Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II.

But the party proved appealing to voters angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s border policy, which allowed more than one million asylum seekers into the country since 2015.

Calling on people to join the protest on Sunday, the popular movement Campact urged Germans to “steal the show from the AfD”.

“When the AfD sits in the Bundestag for the first time on October 24, it needs to know that our parliament is not a stage for racism, discrimination and falsifying history!” said Campact.

Teacher Annette Saidler acknowledged at the protest that “it’s now too late” to stop the AfD from entering parliament.

“We can’t do anything other than demonstrate, to say that there are still many people who did not vote for the AfD.”

Another protester, 25-year-old university student Bastian Schmidt said he was at the demonstration to “call on parliamentary parties to protest in parliament against the AfD”.

“But above all, the people who are here, wherever they are in their daily lives — in schools, universities or companies — must fight against racism,” said Schmidt, who turned up with a group of like-minded schoolmates.

Related:

© dpa/AFP/File / by Isabelle LE PAGE | The centre-right German Chancellor Angela Merkel is faced with a surge of support for far-right protest party AfD

India, Pakistan are both important to U.S. policy, says Tillerson

October 21, 2017

By Varghese K. George

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, suit and text

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.   | Photo Credit: AP

Tillerson says both are part of U.S. approach on South Asia

India and the U.S. are “two bookends of stability — on either side of the globe” and the “emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership” has the potential to anchor the rules-based world order for the next hundred years, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.

Mr. Tillerson, who will be travelling to India and Pakistan next week, said both countries are “important elements” in the U.S. policy for stabilising South Asia and characterised China a destabilising force. “China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for,” he said, speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on ‘U.S.-India Partnership of the next 100 years.’

Mr. Tillerson said the new “regional approach” on Afghanistan also involved seeking a resolution to tensions between India and Pakistan. “We intent to work closely with India and Pakistan and we hope to ease tensions along their borders as well… Pakistan has two very troubled borders. We would like to help take the tensions down on both of those,” he said.

“We see it as a regional issue. We solve Afghanistan by addressing the regional challenges. Pakistan is important element in that, India is important element in that,” he said.

Mr. Tillerson’s explanation of the new South Asia policy calls into question the interpretation of it as an acceptance of the Indian line, and a rejection of Pakistan’s position. He was also categorical in his support for the Indian position on China and its aid and financing support for other countries in the region, terming it “predatory economics”.

Repeatedly referring to India’s democratic politics, Mr. Tillerson also referred to India’s Muslim minorities. “India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims — the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant numbers of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of IS or other terror groups, which speaks to the strengths of Indian society,” he said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/india-pakistan-are-both-important-to-us-policy-says-tillerson/article19883871.ece

China says no excuses for foreign officials meeting Dalai Lama

October 21, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor

The 14th Dalai Lama won in 1989 for “his struggle for the liberation of Tibet” as well as his consistent opposition to the use of violence. REUTERS/Yuan Jia-hung

BEIJING (Reuters) – Foreign leaders can’t think they can get away with meeting exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama just because they are doing it in a personal capacity, as they still represent their government, a senior Chinese official said on Saturday.

China considers the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, to be a dangerous separatist. The Nobel Peace Prize winning monk says he simply seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

Visits by the Dalai Lama to foreign countries infuriate China, and fewer and fewer national leaders are willing to meet him, fearing the consequences of Chinese anger, though some have tried to placate Beijing by saying they are meeting him in a personal not official capacity.

Zhang Yijiong, who heads the Communist Party’s Tibet working group, told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that there could be no excuses to meeting the Dalai Lama.

“Although some people say, the Dalai is a religious figure, our government didn’t put in an appearance, it was just individual officials, this is incorrect,” said Zhang, who is also a vice minister at the United Front Work Department, which has led failed talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives.

“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments. So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” he added.

China took control of Tibet in 1950 in what it calls a “peaceful liberation” and has piled pressure on foreign governments to shun the Dalai Lama, using economic means to punish those who allow him in.

China strongly denies accusations of rights abuses in Tibet, saying its rule has brought prosperity to what was a remote and backward region, and that it fully respects the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people.

China also insists that Tibet in an integral part of its territory and has been for centuries.

Zhang, who worked in Tibet from 2006-2010 as a deputy Communist Party boss, said that Tibetan Buddhism was a special religion “born in our ancient China”.

“It’s a Chinese religion. It didn’t come in from the outside,” he said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill

Related:

Photos circulated on social media show advance dismantling of dwellings before the arrival of government demolition crew at Larung GarPhotos circulated on social media show advance dismantling of dwellings before the arrival of government demolition crew at Larung Gar

Recent photos of housing destroyed by residents themselves before the arrival of government demolition crew at Yachen GarRecent photos of housing destroyed by residents themselves before the arrival of government demolition crew at Yachen Gar

Nuns and monks in Larung Gar on their way to a prayer hall.CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

Blaze guts historic teak wood Yangon hotel

October 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Firefighters tackle the fierce blaze which gutted the Kandawgyi Palace hotel in Yangon
YANGON (AFP) – One person died in a pre-dawn blaze on Thursday that tore through a teakwood hotel in Yangon popular with foreign visitors to Myanmar’s main city.

The fire gutted the lakeside Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, a colonial-era building owned by a Myanmar businessman notorious for making his fortune under the former junta.

Hundreds of firefighters tried to quell the blaze which broke out at around 3am local time (2030 GMT), but they could not stop the flames from consuming the luxury hotel.

Image may contain: one or more people

An AFP reporter at the scene saw a white plastic sheet covering a body retrieved from the fire, but there was no immediate confirmation of further casualties.

“We don’t know why the fire started. We’re sad that such a historic and beautiful place was completely destroyed,” a witness Kyi Kyi told AFP, standing near the still smouldering ruins of the building.

Another witness, wearing a branded shirt of the Htoo company which owns the hotel, said: “It is really bad. All has gone now.”

The Htoo company, which spans construction, timber, resorts and an airline, was founded by Tay Za – a controversial tycoon who spun millions of dollars through close junta links.

Guests at the destroyed hotel had been moved to other hotels in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city which has made its mark on Southeast Asia’s tourist trail since the country emerged from full junta rule.

The oldest parts of the Kandawgyi hotel date to the 1930s when British army officers used the site as rowing club.

Myanmar’s reputation as one of the region’s hottest new destinations has also been battered by global censure over an army crackdown on its Rohingya population.

At least 29 killed in central Nigeria violence

October 17, 2017

AFP

© NIGERIA STATE HOUSE/AFP/File / by Salisu SHITU | Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari has issued an appeal to ‘stop the madness’ after the latest spurt of violence targeting people sheltered in a school

JOS (NIGERIA) (AFP) – At least 29 people were killed in a new flare-up of violence in central Nigeria targeting people sheltered in a primary school, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an appeal to “stop the madness”.The attack happened on Monday in Plateau state, which has been dogged for years by ethnic, sectarian and religious unrest.

Sunday Audu, the head of the Irigwe Community Development Association, said armed men stormed the school in the village of Nkyie Doghwro, in the Bassa area of the state.

Hundreds of local residents had sought refuge there for fear of reprisal attacks, after unidentified assailants killed six cattle herders on Sunday.

“Our people were attacked… with 29 dead, three injured at a school used as a camp and protected by security,” Audu told reporters in the Plateau state capital, Jos, on Monday.

Plateau police spokesman Tyopev Terna confirmed the attack but declined to give a death toll.

Audu blamed the killings on the mostly nomadic Fulani herdsmen, accusing them of being “in denial of sponsoring these attacks”.

But the head of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Bassa, Umaru Sangare, denied claims they were to blame.

“We have no hand in the attack against the Irigwe, despite the fact that our six men were killed on Sunday and beheaded at Bajju village while grazing,” he said.

“We didn’t take the law into our own hands but reported the incident to the military and police authorities and secured their permission to bury the decapitated bodies.”

– Resource conflict –

Plateau state lies on the dividing line between Nigeria’s mainly Christian south and the mostly Muslim north. It has seen sporadic violence and tensions for decades.

The violence has been attributed to a battle for resources because of drought and desertification in northern Nigeria and the wider Sahel region, forcing herders further south.

Farming communities, most of which are Christian, have complained the herdsmen, who are mainly Muslim, damage their fields and crops with their livestock.

The problem is also linked to wider issues, with the farmers seen as “indigenous” and the herdsmen “foreigners”, even if they have lived in the area for generations.

Fulani leaders say they are deprived of basic rights, such as access to land, education and even political office.

Tensions frequently boil over and more than 10,000 people have been killed in the state since the turn of the century, according to groups tracking the violence.

Last month, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a report that the clashes threatened Nigeria’s national security and were becoming as dangerous as Boko Haram Islamists.

It called for more cooperation and the adoption of measures such as better rural security, designated grazing areas and conflict resolution programmes.

Southern leaders, however, believe President Buhari lacks the political will to tackle the problem, as the Fulani are his kinsmen.

A statement from Buhari’s office on Monday night said he learned of the latest killings “with deep sadness and regret”, giving the death toll as “at least 20”.

“This madness has gone too far,” the emailed statement said.

“(Buhari) has instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisal attacks by one group against the other,” it added.

by Salisu SHITU

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, October 16, 2017 — “There is something greater here.” — Real freedom come from obedience to the will of God through faith.

October 15, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 467

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Art: King Solomon – The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

Reading 1 ROM 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the Gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1BCDE, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (2a) The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 OCTOBER, 2017, Monday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time
MAKING GOOD USE OF OUR PRIVILEGES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 1:1-7Ps 98:1-4Lk 11:29-32 ]

What is tragic in life is that many of us do not appreciate the privileges that God has blessed us with.  We take them for granted, and because of the lack of gratitude, we do not make use of them wisely for our growth and for the good of others.  Many of us have been gifted with a good life, a nice house, a car and money for education; and on the personal level, good health, beauty, intelligence, and good connections.  Alas, instead of using them well and developing ourselves with the gifts we have, we squander them away.  Indeed, we are reminded of the words of Jesus when He warned us, “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.”  (Mt 7:6)

This is particularly true with respect to our faith.   Most of us do not have to pay a price for our faith because it was passed on to us.  We do not have to make sacrifices to find our faith, unlike the early Christians who had to even pay with their life to find faith in Christ.  St Paul reminded the Romans of their great privilege to be called by God to belong to Him.  “You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ.  To you all, men, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.”  How great it is to be part of God’s family and to be God’s beloved!  Christ, at His baptism, was also called as God’s beloved.  So to be known as God’s beloved means that we are special in God’s eyes and His love is with us.   By being baptized, we are given the inheritance to enjoy the love of God.  What a wonderful gift and assurance indeed.  This is what St Paul wrote, “may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.”  It is truly grace to be forgiven and chosen in Christ and to be at peace with God.

But not only were the Romans called to be God’s beloved, they were also called to be saints.  They were set apart to be God’s people and dedicated for His service.  We are given a mission to be the ambassadors of Christ.  Like St Paul, we are called to be “a servant of Christ Jesus” and “an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.”  Such is the calling of a Christian.  He is adopted into God’s family, given a new identity as His beloved and sent on a mission to bring the Good News of God’s love to all.  “Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.”

But unfortunately, many of us do not treasure the privilege of being called by the Lord.  We take the grace of baptism lightly.  We do not value our identity in Christ as His adopted brother and sister.  We do not live as a member of the household of God.  Instead we live as estranged children, not in communion with the Lord or with members of the Catholic community.  We do not have any Catholic friends to share our faith with, not even members of our own family!  Although we call ourselves members of God’s family, we live in an individualistic manner, as if our relationship with God is just between Him and me.

Most of all, we do not make any effort to deepen our understanding of Christ and of the gospel.  We lack knowledge of our faith.  Although we claim that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we do not come to Him, read the bible and pray to Him daily.  Instead of taking directions from our Lord, especially using Him as our moral compass, we take directions from the world on what is right or wrong, good or bad.  Our faith in Christ is just a ritualistic faith, paying lip service to Him but in truth, God is far away from our hearts and Christ is not the center of our lives.  Although baptized in Christ, we are still pagans at heart.

When we act in this manner, then the judgement that the Lord said of the Jews would also apply to us as well.Jesus reprimanded them saying, “On judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.  On judgement day, the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” To think that even the warlike and decadent Ninevites repented when Jonah preached to them, and reluctantly at that!  How much more then should the Jews repent because Christ, the Word of God in person, was preaching to them!  And to think that Queen Sheba would travel great distances just to hear King Solomon’s wisdom although he was full of moral imperfections, how much more should the Jews appreciate Christ who is the Wisdom of God in person before them.  Indeed, their rejection of Christ was their loss and they had made themselves more liable to punishment than the pagan nations, such as the Ninevites or the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, who did not have the privilege of meeting Christ, unlike the people from Judea and Galilee.

Indeed, we too have been given the privilege of coming to know the Lord.  We have the grace to freely study and practice our faith.  In many countries, the people have no freedom of religion, not even the freedom of worship.  And even if they are allowed, they are discriminated and ostracized, or the authorities would make things difficult for them to practise their faith.  In some places, one might get killed for professing his or her faith because of fanaticism or persecution.  Besides that, we have enough opportunities to receive the sacraments daily, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.  We have daily masses all over the country, celebrated morning, noon and evening.  There is a church within 10 minutes’ drive from our homes.  We can attend instructions on the faith, ongoing formation, retreats as and when we are ready.  Besides that, we have social and digital media broadcast and scripture reflections every day in our archdiocesan website.  There are more than sufficient materials to learn about our faith from the internet, even if we have no time to go for courses conducted in our churches.

Alas, such facilities and resources are taken for granted. They are not used or accessed.  Many take our daily masses for granted.  Many do not go for the sacrament of reconciliation when they are easily available.  We have the privilege of 2000 years of history and tradition, spiritualties, theology and doctrinal advancement. Unlike the early Christians, we have the advantage of having eye-witnesses of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  We have the benefit of years of doctrinal discussion, clarification and development in the understanding of our faith and doctrine.  We should therefore count ourselves fortunate!

Thus, Jesus’ reprimand to the people should apply to us as well.  “This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.  The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”   Indeed, Christ has been shown to us to be “the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took, was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ who, in the order of the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.”   Christ is truly man and truly God.  He is truly our messiah because He came from the House of David.  He is truly God because of the Spirit in Him at work in His ministry and especially in His resurrection.  Without doubt, we can confidently surrender in faith to Him as St Paul urges us to give “the obedience of faith.”

So as Christians, like St Paul, we have received this great privilege of faith in Christ.  It entails an equal responsibility “to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.”  Having received this privilege without merit on our own but purely through grace, let us witness to His Good News by living out our identity as God’s children in our lives.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 11:29-32 From Living Space

Today’s readings are about doing penance for our sins and they are linked by the name of Jonah.

In Mark’s gospel the crowds are often shown as recognising God’s presence in Jesus better than the Scribes and Pharisees do. In Luke, however, they are sometimes shown as people curious to see signs and wonders but without any real commitment to following Jesus.

So today we are told that “the crowds got even bigger” and Jesus spoke to them. But what he said was not very flattering. “This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.” The only sign they will get will be the sign of Jonah. Jesus, like Jonah, is a call to repentance and radical conversion. And Jesus implies that many of his listeners are not ready or willing to hear that call. They don’t need any signs; Jesus has been giving them an abundance of signs through his teaching and healing work.

On the judgment day, they, the chosen people of God, will be surprised to see the Queen of the South rise up because she, pagan that she was, came a long distance to listen to the wisdom of Solomon – and Jesus is someone far superior to Solomon. They will be surprised to see the people of Niniveh, pagans that they were, rise up because they repented at the preaching of Jonah – and Jesus is far greater than Jonah.

We too, who claim to be God’s People, may be surprised to see who will be called to God’s side on judgment day because they heard and followed God’s word according to their capacity. The question is: where will we be on that day? Thomas A Kempis, the writer of a famous medieval treatise, called The Imitation of Christ, asked that very same question. He was worried about whether he would persevere in serving Christ to the very end of his life. He said he was told in answer to his prayer: “Do now what you would like to have done then, and you will have nothing to worry about.”

Where will I be on the Day of Judgement? The answer to that question can be decided by me this very day and every single day from now on.

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Related:

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From March 8, 2017

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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TRUE REPENTANCE PRESUPPOSES A HUMBLE AND CONTRITE HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JONAH 3:1-10PS 50:3-4,12-13,18-19LUKE 11:29-32 ]

The message of Lent is a call to repentance as a prerequisite for the new life that Christ is offering us at Easter.  This is the first and essential step to take if we are to avail ourselves of the New life of Christ.  Otherwise, at the end of this Lenten season, there will be no experience of resurrection for us as we remain buried in our grave covered by sins.  But not many are ready to repent, just as many resisted the prophets of old when challenged to repent.  If Jesus was rejected then, should we be surprised that when we invite people to repent, they harden their hearts even more.

Ironically, the most difficult people to invite to repent are the new scribes and Pharisees of our days. These are the priests, religious and pious, active church members.  They live in self-righteousness.  We preach to everyone that they must repent but we ourselves are not repenting of our sins.  It seems the message of repentance is directed at everyone but ourselves.  We are more concerned about others repenting than we ourselves.  Perhaps this is because those of us who are supposedly religious and pious are so exposed to sacred things that we get jaded and lose the sense of the sacred.  It becomes a profession, doing and saying “religious” things perfunctorily without sincerely believing in what we say.  And because of the lack of honest and humble self-examination of conscience, we think we are quite holy anyway and that we have not committed any big sins, unlike the rest of the world. This was the case of the religious leaders in today’s gospel who rejected our Lord.

Then there are the real sinners who desire repentance but do not do anything about it.  They know they are living sinful lives.  They know that their life is not in order.  They know they are hurting themselves and others.  They know the law but they cannot obey the law.  In the depths of their heart they may desire to come back to God.  Alas, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.   They cannot find the impetus or strength to renounce their sins and turn back to God.

Why is it that people are not heeding the call to repentance?  The first reason is pride.  This is the cause of blindness, as in the case of the leaders of Israel.  Their pride was hurt and they were not willing to admit that they too were sinners.  They put up a good show for others to see.  Jesus was a threat to them.  Even with all the miracles and signs that Jesus performed, they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah.  When we are proud, we want to see things our own way.  We would not accept the Word of God.  Our ego often gets in the way of our welcoming the simple message of repentance that is preached.  We see this in the case of the Ninevites.  When they heard the message of the prophet Jonah, they immediately repented.  “They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.”

The second cause of blindness is selfishness.  When we think only of ourselves, we cannot see the bigger picture.  Many of us are absorbed in our own needs and desires.  In our selfish pursuit of those things that entice and attract us, we do not weigh the cost of procuring those things.  That is why people cheat, steal and rob.  Many eat, smoke and drink excessively, causing hurt to themselves and their loved ones.  Indeed, one who cannot see beyond oneself will only do things for short term gains but long term pain.   Because of ambition and greed we ruin our health and integrity.

Then there is the third reason for blindness.  It is simply ignorance.  Many of us are hurting ourselves and our loved ones without knowing it.  Some parents think that if they have plenty of money, their children will be happy when what they really want is a loving family and the loving presence of their parents.  Some of us are slaves to pleasure and enjoyment, apparently oblivious to the consequences of our actions. We pursue dangerous activities but do we spare a thought for our loved ones who might have to look after us when we suffer a bad accident, and become crippled for life.  Do we really consider if what we do is really and truly good for us and our loved ones?  Do the means bring about the end that we desire, which is a loving and happy united family?

How, then, can we begin the path to repentance?  One way is fear, like the Ninevites.  For fear of the punishment of God, they repented. Well, this is not a bad motive but it is not the highest motive for true repentance.  If we repent out of fear of punishment, then when that possibility is taken away, we fall back into sin.  It is like little children who would only do what we tell them out of fear of punishment.  This way of thinking shows a lack of maturity in our decisions.

The only way to repent is as the responsorial psalm says, “A humbled, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”  What is required simply is a humble heart that recognizes the sins committed, the hurts we have done to God, our fellowmen and ourselves.  Only true humility can bring a person to contrition.   When we think of the pain and suffering we have caused to others because of our sins, we will then repent.  When we steal, do we ever think how much we are depriving the person and his loved ones of their needs?  When we are unjust in our actions, do we spare a thought that someone is suffering because we have not been fair?

The most powerful motivating factor for repentance of heart is when we truly love Godour loved ones, our fellowmen and ourselves.  That is why Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk 10:27)  True conversion must be motivated by love not by fear.  When we begin to understand how our sins affect others and hurt them, especially when they love us so much, then we will be contrite.  The more we fail in love towards our loved ones, the greater the contrition.  So being conscious of the love of God for us, especially in Christ Jesus’ death on the cross, should cause us to feel sorrow for our sins because our sins hurt the heart of God when He sees us hurting ourselves and His people.  Being conscious of the sufferings and anxieties of our loved ones because of our foolish acts will help us to avoid doing the wrong things.

Consequently, if we are seeking a new life in Christ, we must spend these weeks of Lent contemplating on the love and mercy of God in Christ; and the love of our loved ones so that we can be filled with compunction for our sins.   When we start thinking of all that we have done or failed to do, then we will feel remorse for our negligence or wrong done to them.  We need to withdraw to the desert during this Lenten season and spend time reviewing our relationship with God, with others and even the way we treat ourselves.  Are we doing justice to the life that God has given to us and the talents that He has blessed us with?  By coming to consciousness of our failings, we too can then pray, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.  In your compassion blot out my offence.”

Truly, the grace of repentance is given to all.  We need not wait for the penitential service to go for confession.  Whenever we are properly prepared and are ready, that is, having a humble and contrite heart, then we should go for the sacrament of reconciliation.  In fact, it is more effective to go for individual confession as you can confess your sins properly and be instructed by the confessor. If penitential service has been proven ineffective as a means of experiencing God’s mercy and effecting a true change of heart, it is because many go for the service without preparation.  They simply went for confession.  They did not hear the Word of God.  They did not spend time reflecting on their life, on all that they had done or failed to do.  So most go for a quick confession without serious and prolonged preparation. Such confession is more like going to a laundry service without any intention to keep the clothes clean for long.

Let us not miss out this grace of repentance.  We should individually make time to go through our life.  We have a few weeks to do so.  Reading the Word of God daily as provided in the mass text, and applying it to our lives will help us to come to a state of awareness and contrition.  Let us not delay but start now.  Give yourself at least half an hour of prayer and reflection every day.  Take note of your sins and your struggles so that when the time comes for confession, you are ready with a contrite heart.   And when you confess sincerely from your heart, you will be washed clean and God’s presence will return to you.  You will experience His joy, His love and, most of all, a new life.   Do not wait or delay longer, otherwise you will be condemned, as Jesus says in the gospel, by the Ninevites and the Queen of the South.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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From Peace and Freedom and  “The Anawim Way: Liturgical Meditations”
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We saw in previous readings that although the Lord invites everyone to the banquet, not everyone accepts his call. Once we do accept the Lord, we enter into the fullness of life which the Lord intends for us. One of the best gift of our life in service to the lord is true freedom, about which Paul reflects today in the first reading: “It was for liberty that Christ freed us.”
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This freedom is a gift from God and is not a product of our own self-reliance. It does not come from our obedience to the laws of God. Real freedom come from obedience to the will of God through faith.
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Our freedom is a gift with strings attached: once we accept our freedom we have responsibilities. Once we accept freedom from God we must use it to His greater purpose and not for selfish things. We must use our freedom in the service of others! By free will we shape our lives for the good of God or toward evil things. But is we choose sin; we revoke out freedom and return to the “yoke of sin.”
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Atheism may be fashionable, but most intelligent people believe in God
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22 December 2015

Have we ever needed Christianity more than we do today? It’s a rhetorical question, for sure, because the loss of our faith and the inability to confront Islam have never been greater. When I was a little boy during the war, my mother assured me that if I believed in Jesus everything would be OK. This was during the Allied bombing on Tatoi, the military airfield near our country house where the Germans concentrated their anti-aircraft guns. My Fräulein, the Prussian lady who brought me up, was more practical. She handed me a beautiful carved knife that made me feel safer than my prayers ever did.

Today, of course, 74 years later, my prayers are far more likely to give me peace of mind than a knife in my pocket. That’s the difference between being five and 79 years of age. Mind you, now I pray only for the safety and welfare of my children and their mother. My soul I sold to the devil long ago. No prayers will save that loser. At times, during Christmas and Easter, when I go to church, light a candle and sit alone in a pew, all these memories come flooding back, especially my fear of the noisy Anglo-American bombs that rained down around us, and how only the steel in my pocket gave me courage.

Atheists seem to be le goût du jour. Our celebrity culture has no room for faithful people, especially Christians; only Islam enjoys that privilege. In 1966 Time magazine shocked its readers with a cover that asked whether God was dead. I remember it well because Henry Luce died soon after. Was there a hidden message somewhere, I wondered? But Luce was a devout Christian and a great believer in the Almighty, unlike Christopher Hitchens, whose favourite targets were priests, Mother Teresa and God, a Christian God whose followers turned the other cheek. The Hitch had very little to say against Allah because he knew the latter’s followers did not take kindly to cheap remarks against him. Hitchens deplored Christmas, ‘the collectivisation of gaiety’ and ‘compulsory bad taste’, as well he should have, being an opportunist. Atheism gets you in through the front door, Christianity is reserved for the trade entrance. He hated the ‘confessional drool’ that families mailed to each other, especially simple people who believe in love and forgiveness.

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The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is an atheist hard to dislike. He’s charming, learned and intelligent, and never a bully. Ditto some ancients — here I rely on the ancient Athenian Taki and his epigrams — such as Socrates and his ilk. Also Voltaire and Mill, and so on. The first modern to go atheist and announce that God had had it was Nietzsche, who predictably went bonkers. Terrific shits like Freud and Picasso were atheists, as were French fries like Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan, and our very own H.G. Wells. And James Joyce and Philip Roth. One thing all these talented writers and thinkers have in common, apart from their disbelief in the Almighty, is great physical ugliness. That alone should explain it.

The great 20th-century theologian Paul Tillich wrote that to believe that God is active at all times, being out there somewhere, dwelling in a special place and being affected by events, is a shallow supposition: ‘Literalism deprives God of his ultimacy.’ That’s where ‘there is no God’, the cry from the heart of those who have lost a loved one, comes from. Ditto the old saw that you need God in order to be good. God is what makes us understand the difference between good and evil, take it from Taki.

The ultimate irony, needless to say, is that Charles Darwin said he believed in God. Let’s face it: most intelligent people believe in God, as did most world leaders in the past. My uncle, a war hero in the Albanian campaign when we wiped out the Italians, once told me that he had never seen courage like that shown by priests and medical orderlies in the thick of battle. Unarmed and without helmets, they would give the last rites to the dying and tend to the wounded. While soldiers dived into their foxholes, they would go out in the open field and make the sign of the cross over the fallen. God, in most cases, protected them. Go figure, you non-believers.

This is my 38th Christmas column, and of course it seems like yesterday that I wrote the first one. It was in my father’s London office in Albemarle Street. I used clichés galore and didn’t mention God once, just Christmas parties. I have probably come full circle. When Thomas Jefferson wrote that ‘all men are created equal’ he called the proposition self-evident. It was a very Christian thing to say because not all men are created equal. They have equal rights under God, and it is only a Christian God that ensures the latter. Just look at what Islam is doing to its adherents, how it has cheapened life to the extent that people volunteer to blow themselves up in order to get some rice and some virgins, and compare that to Christianity. The idea of the preciousness and equal worth of every human being is largely rooted in Christianity. Have a very happy Christmas and defend our faith. And, if need be, carry a knife.

This article is from the Spectator’s Christmas treble issue.

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2015/12/atheism-may-be-fashionable-but-most-intelligent-people-believe-in-god/

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Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi ‘appalled’ at Rohingya crisis: adviser

October 13, 2017

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Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

GENEVA (Reuters) – Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi is “appalled” at the Rohingya refugee crisis in her country and is determined to fix it, but needs to be careful not to inflame the situation further, an adviser to Suu Kyi told reporters on Friday.

“She is appalled by what she has seen. She does care deeply about this. I know that does not always come across. But she really does,” said the adviser, who asked not to be quoted by name.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Gareth Jones

Image result for Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing, photos

Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing